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More than a month after it abruptly shuttered ComicsAlliance and AOL Music, AOL is expected to announce today that it has sold the comics blog and three music websites to Townsquare Media Group. The staffs will join the Connecticut-based media and digital-marketing company, which owns 243 radio stations and a growing number of websites, including ScreenCrush and PopCrush.
UPDATE (6 a.m.): And, just like that, ComicsAlliance has returned with new content, beginning with a comics explanation of the website’s history. (Original story continues below.)
The purchase by Townsquare reunites ComicsAlliance and the music sites with Bill Wilson, the company’s executive vice president and chief digital officer, who helped to develop the properties during his tenure as president of AOL Media.
“I wanted to make sure you saw that we were able to acquire some of the aol music assets (and Comics Alliance),” Wilson tweeted this morning. “Very excited!”
ROBOT 6 has confirmed rumors circulating this weekend at Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo that parent company AOL has shut down the comics news site ComicsAlliance. The move came Friday amid the abrupt closings of AOL Music and several music news and video sites.
Launched in its current form in August 2009 by Laura Hudson (AOL had briefly operated a lower-profile comics blog with that name), ComicsAlliance featured a mix of news, humor and commentary and a staff of contributors that most recently included the likes of Caleb Goellner, Chris Sims, Andy Khouri and David Brothers. Hudson left the site in June 2012, to be replaced as editor-in-chief by former Vertigo editor Joe Hughes.
A three-time Eisner Award nominee, ComicsAlliance posted no new content over the weekend, even as C2E2 and Stumptown Comics Fest were unfolding, leading early credence to rumors that it had been closed. This morning, the site published only a link round-up that had been written Friday; the weekly “War Rocket Ajax” podcast, which typically appears on Mondays at ComicsAlliance, was instead posted at Sims’ personal website.
(Kiel Phegley contributed to this report)
Comic-Con | Badges for Comic-Con International sold out Saturday during a marathon online-registration session that taxed the servers of convention sales partner TicketLeap and frustrated ticket buyers. Four-day passes were gone by about 2 p.m. PT; the event sold out by 6 p.m. (Additional passes may become available as cancellations are processed.) As we noted earlier, San Francisco comics retailer Isotope is memorializing Saturday’s experience with a “San Diego Comic Con 2011 Registration Disaster Commemorative Fail Frog button,” featuring a modified version of the TicketLeap logo that frustrated users saw every time they refreshed their web browser.
On the TicketLeap company blog, CEO Chris Stanchak acknowledged that “our platform experienced capacity issues for a 4 hour period” on Saturday: “While we knew the event was going to put significant demand on our system, we did not expect the traffic we received. […] The traffic we received yesterday was several orders of magnitude higher than our high end estimate. Due to the heavy strain on the system, users for all events across our system received ‘Over Capacity’ errors. This prevented ticket buyers from buying tickets and it prevented event organizers from managing their events.” Tom Spurgeon offers commentary. [Comic-Con International]
AOL, which has been described as an albatross around the neck of DC Comics parent company Time Warner, plans to shed more than a third of its workforce as it spins off from the media giant next month.
Although earlier speculation placed layoffs at about 1,000, the struggling Internet company announced this morning that it will ask 2,500 of its 6,900 employees to accept buyouts. If it can’t find enough volunteers, AOL will resort to layoffs. The announcement, part of an effort to cut $300 million in annual costs, comes a little more than a week after 100 layoffs.
Founded in 1983 as Quantum Computer Services, AOL at one point boasted 30 million subscribers, a number that shrank considerably after its 2001 merger with Time Warner — a disastrous deal that resulted in a record $99-billion loss for the (briefly) rebranded AOL Time Warner and the removal of Steve Case as chairman.
AOL, which The Associated Press points out still makes money, counts among its operations the comics blog Comics Alliance, the tech blog Engadget, the video-game blog Joystiq and, in partnership with Time Warner’s Telepictures Productions, the high-profile celebrity-news site TMZ.com.
Publishing | Italian movie producer Domenico Procacci has purchased Bologna-based graphic novel publisher Coconino Press, adding it to his Fandango filmmaking and book-publishing company. In addition to its own titles, Coconino publishes the Italian editions of works by such artists as Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes, and Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi. [Variety]
Publishing | Young-adult novelist Melissa de la Cruz has signed new contracts with Hyperion, the Disney Book Group imprint that publishes her bestselling Blue Bloods series. The deal calls for three companion books to the teen-vampire drama, including Blue Bloods: The Graphic Novel. [Variety]
Publishing | IDW Publishing will adapt Peter Beagle’s bestselling 1968 fantasy novel The Last Unicorn as a six-issue miniseries. The comic, by writer Peter B. Gillis, artist Renae De Liz and colorist Ray Dillon, will debut in April. [ICv2.com]
Publishing | Simon Jones offers commentary about declining manga sales in Japan: “Some blame was again placed at the industry’s increasing focus on niche genres (just as comics is a spandex ghetto, manga is facing a crisis of the moe slum), but I think this is being overstated as a cause, when it’s really a symptom that is self-feeding. Manga sales have gone down … it could be lower birth rates, or competition from other media, or internet piracy (come on guys, we don’t need to couch this in flowery language), or any combination of those. But it all comes down to fewer companies being able to produce mainstream products, because a growing segment of mainstream audiences are no longer willing to pay for them despite increasing demand.” [Icarus Publishing]